The Best Areas to Hunt African Lion
Finding a full-mane free-range lion in Africa today is getting harder to accomplish. It is also becoming more expensive, as it sometimes takes multiple safaris to accomplish that goal. The development of large full black manes is thought to be hereditary, many traditional lion hunting areas have had these fully-maned lions taken as trophies, and over the course of several lion generations, they have been largely removed from the gene pool. That does not mean that you can’t find a fully-maned cat in the wild, it just means that it has gotten a lot tougher!
Combined with the ongoing closures of Kenya and the recent closures of both Zambia and Botswana to lion hunting, the list of areas where you can hope to take a large fully-maned African lion is shrinking. There is an ongoing effort by many countries, PH’s and even the hunters themselves to take only fully mature cats that are at least 5-6 years old and are not associated with an active pride. It has been well documented that removal of the dominant male can create infanticide by the new male joining the pride, and threaten the very survival of the pride itself. It is somewhat difficult to age lions in the field, so it is becoming increasingly difficult to get that magic phrase “Go ahead and shoot!” that so many hunters have dreamed about their entire lives.
The unrest in the Central African Republic further reduces lion hunting areas, as civil unrest there has made it an unsafe destination and has caused some long-time outfitters to pull up stakes and move to neighboring Cameroon.
So the quest for a large black-maned lion has come down to two basic choices. The hunter must decide between an expensive focused hunt for a free-range lion or an estate hunt in South Africa for a captive raised cat. The choice boils down to the hunter’s attitude towards a high fence hunt along with the significant cost differences between the two hunts.
South Africa Estate Hunt
A South African estate hunt for lion will typically take place on a 4,000 - 50,000 acre high fence enclosure. Many of these hunts occur in the Northern Province in the Kalahari Desert, although lion hunting also occurs in Limpopo, the Eastern Cape, Kwazulu–Natal and other scattered sites throughout South Africa. The hunter normally will be provided photos of a selection of cats in his price range, and once the selection has been made, the cat is released into the hunting area several weeks prior to scheduled hunt. In many of these estate hunts, several females may be roaming the enclosure, but only one male at a time will be present, as it reduces the likelihood of the males fighting over the females and scarring up their skins.
There are basically three reasons why a hunter might choose to hunt an estate lion:
1. The affordability of the estate hunt vs a free-ranging lion hunt.
2. The hunter has hunted free ranging lion previously and has been unsuccessful
3. The hunter is assured of the quality and appearance of his trophy lion.
A great South African Estate Lion taken in the Kalahari.
Pricing for these estate hunts for male lions currently ranges from $12,000 up to $35,000+. For a lion in the mid $20’s, a hunter can expect to get a beautiful fully-maned lion that is very difficult to find in the wild today. There is a well-established industry in South Africa that raises these lions for hunting and the ethics of hunting of these estate lions has generated a lot of controversy among animal welfare groups. One of the benefits of the captive lion hunting industry is that it has taken some of the pressure off of wild lion hunting. By having affordable lions available, it is conceivable that some hunters will decide to take the beautiful estate lion versus a smaller-maned wild lion. With only an estimated 35,000 lions remaining in the wild, this captive-reared program helps take the pressure off of the remaining wild population.
Free Range Lion
A fully-maned free range African lion is probably the hardest of the Big 5 to obtain, Wherever there are cattle in Africa, lions are shot, snared or poisioned. With their proclivity to pick-off the occasional villager, along with their taste for livestock, their conflicts with Africa’s ever-growing population is shrinking the areas where they can live free and exist without being persecuted by the locals.
Many of the areas where lions still exist in the wild are hot, low-lying areas with thick brush. Cats in these areas tend to have thinner manes. It is necessary to look at a lot of cats in these areas to find a good lion these days.
Costs for these free-range lion hunts can range from a low end of $45,000 to upwards of $100,000 for a 21 day full bag safari in a premium hunting area.
Closed Areas / Dangerous Areas with Exceptional Male Lions
Zambia – Kafue Area (Currently closed to cat hunting)
Zambia – Luangwa Valley (Currently closed to cat hunting)
Northeastern C.A.R. (currently too dangerous to hunt)
Open Areas with Exceptional Male Lions
1. Rungwa region of Central Tanzania
2. Masailand in Tanzania
3. Western Tanzania
4. The fringes of Kruger National Park in South Africa
5. The fringes of Kruger National Park in Zimbabwe (Sengwe 1, Sengwe 2 and the Beitbridge Ranch Campfire Area)
6. Namibia – Etosha Park fringes (problem animal permits / small quota)
7. Namibia – Caprivi Strip (small quota)
Other Areas with Good Numbers of Lions
Zambia’s Luangwa Valley (Currently closed to cat hunting)
Zambezi Valley – Mozambique
Zambezi Valley – Zimbabwe
Selous Reserve – Tanzania
In these areas, you will likely have to look over a large number of lions to find one with a good mane.
In conclusion, if you want a MGM lion, the most economical way to get a full-maned trophy is an estate hunt in South Africa. For a great price on an Estate lion hunt click here.
If you want a free-range fully-maned lion for your trophy room, then it is all about the area you choose to hunt in. Choosing lion hunting areas is just like buying real estate. The key is: Location, Location, and Location! You could get lucky almost anywhere, but your odds of taking that lion of a lifetime home with you will be much higher if you book your lion hunt where the big ones still roam as king!